July 5, 2015


Christopher Denham, 2015
Denham succeeds with this indie horror/thriller by purposefully not trying to reinvent the wheel. He knows what the film is, and doesn't try to break any new ground. He makes his mark through a very John Carpenter-esque score, and through some really artful camera work. The film is more of an homage to the 80's slasher films with the killer in the woods like Friday the 13th and Evil Dead. The film also largely works because of the acting work by Wrenn Schmidt (Our Idiot Brother), Pablo Schreiber (The Wire, Orange is the New Black) and Aaron Staton (Mad Men).

The first half hour or so of the film is dedicated to introducing the three main characters. Brothers Sean (Schreiber) and Mike (Staton) bring along Mike's wife Wit (Schmidt) on a camping trip. The brothers are clearly veteran campers, with an edge going to Sean because he is a an actual military veteran where he was able to perfect a lot of survival skills. Sean also suffers with PTSD sustained during his tours abroad. Because of this there is an obvious divide between the two brothers, with Mike sort of unsure of Sean's unpredictable actions and mood swings. There's also marital trouble between Mike and Wit. They don't have a really intimate relationship, and Mike is mostly conducting business on his cell-phone. So it's not just three innocent happy-go-lucky people venturing into the woods together. There is tension from the start, some ambiguity as to who the people really are and what we will learn about them when things start heading south. Actually the most pure character from the get-go is probably Sean's loyal and intelligent German Shepherd.

When the film makes it's inevitable shift, things turn from tense to brutal as the three campers are preyed upon by merciless forces. There's something interesting about the true display of who you are as a person when you are put in a situation like this, where you are thrown into the wilderness with nothing but your wits. It's been done before in The Blair Witch Project, where you see humans stripped down to nothing but weepy, desperate shells. Preservation manages to take a stale premise and repackages it with fresh visual elements. That might not be enough to please everyone but it was enough to satisfy me.

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